Florence was the first of my feline companions; arriving on the scene some 18 years back; a tiny black ball of fluff with long whiskers, a white tummy and toes. From the very start she commandeered the entire household, capitalising upon our devotion to her and dictating to us all at her whim. Her son Freddie arrived the following year and she bullied him just as she did the rest of us.
Freddie was an adorable, loving Tabby, totally subservient to Florence despite being twice her size. Once Florence spied Freddie sleeping peacefully on the sofa, she would stalk silently along the sofa back and then spring upon him, biffing him so that he woke startled, retreating hurriedly, thus vacating a warm hollow into which Florence would curl up, purring happily at another victory and then sleep.
Sketch of Freddie Sleeping
Dinnertime was another opportunity for Florence to assert her position as head of the household. At roughly the same time every evening two plates of food were presented to Florence and Freddie. Freddie would sit, waiting hesitantly to see which plate Florence was partaking from, before tentatively moving forward to take a bite from the other plate. Florence with one eye fixed on Freddie would gulp down a mouthful from the first plate and then just as he was about to begin eating, push him unceremoniously aside and imperiously demolish the food upon the second plate, leaving Freddie to eat from her plate. This ritual continued in the same manner on a daily basis.
Sketch of Freddie peering timidly from beneath the rug - watching for Florence
Lucie came into my life eight years ago - a pathetic scared little scrap of smoky grey fur squawking like a baby banshee from behind my neighbour's hedge. She belonged to my neighbour and technically still does, but this is a fact that has never seemed to bother her and she has persisted unwaveringly with her belief that her rightful home is with me. Florence, as could be expected took great exception to Lucie's arrival and made her indignation known through throwing many hissy fits. Freddie resigned himself to the presence of another female in his life with meek acceptance.
Sadly and causing many tears to be shed, Florence died in 2010. Freddie was heartbroken without her and sat in the garden on the bench near where she was buried and cried for hours, refusing to come indoors. He died three months later. I cried for days!
Lucie had always been mindful that she did not really belong, however with the absence of both Florence and Freddie she now felt that she had earned her right to belong with me and has become increasingly more possessive, demanding all my attention and affection.
Lucie in Bed
Although she is as cute as a button, Lucie does possess some rather unpleasant traits. With the exception of me and my neighbour she is extremely nervous of every human (especially of the male variety)! If she doesn't flee in panic when approached by anyone else, Lucie is apt to develop a serious attack of flatulence; which due to her rich and varied diet of frogs, mice and in the past most lamentably - birds, can be extremely revolting. Her breath too tends to be on the mousey side and certainly not the most wholesome.
Florence and Freddie were both avid bird watchers and would sit for hours engrossed, uttering silent meows, their little chins and whiskers quivering in excitement as they sat at the French windows staring in fascination at the frenzy of feeding birds in the laburnum tree in the garden. However the fascination with the birds stopped there for them. Freddie was too daunted and intimidated by the fact that birds could actually move to pursue his interest any further, and Florence's preference was for the bird variety of chicken, freshly roasted from the oven.
Much to my distress, since she was a very tiny cat Lucie proved herself to be an expert hunter and killer. I have seen her skulking low to the ground, and then lie motionless watching a flock of starlings feeding on the grass before quick as lightening darting at them and seizing her chosen prey by the neck amidst the frantic warning squawking of the other birds. It is for this reason that Lucie's presence is now announced by the jingling of the bell she wears around her neck.
I am inclined to believe that Lucie has French origins as she shows a most remarked penchant for frogs legs and I have had the dubious privilege of being presented with a gift from her of a live frog with one leg already consumed. Judging by her excited high pitched cries when she deposited the poor creature at my feet in the kitchen she appeared to be labouring under the misapprehension that I wanted to partake of the other leg.
That particular gift created less havoc than when on my return from a short break away I discovered her present of a dead mouse in the toe of my slipper! As I had been wearing the slippers for a while and was becoming irritated with the lump in the sole - the fact of putting my hand in and making the discovery of the dead furry body of a mouse, that I had inadvertently been stroking with my toes, brought me to the very brink of hysteria!
Lucie content upon the rug
However she is a little sweetheart and demonstrates real affection towards me, putting her head on my shoulder and nuzzling into me as though she were still a kitten, preferring the times when it is just me and her with no one else around to disturb her equilibrium.
Lucie enjoying the evening sun through the window
There is though still one thorn in her side - that of a rather impressive black and white cat with a nonchalant swagger whom I have christened Percy, short for "persistent".
Percy lurking beneath the armoire
Percy has a home (not mine) where he is quite comfortable, but he perceives his domain to include other houses aside from his main residence. To this end he patrols all the homes within the vicinity of his patch, appearing suddenly out of nowhere in kitchens and upon sofas, expecting to receive food and respect upon demand. Refusing to accept that he isn't entitled to either, Percy persistently returns, finding his way through any unwittingly open door or window - compelling those of us whom he views as his subjects to submit to his demands and even occasionally offering us the privilege of stroking him for a brief few moments.
Percy pays no heed to Lucie or other felines in residence at his other destinations who may feel resentful about his intrusion, but views them as inconsequential; of no significance; unworthy of his attention. Instead he takes great delight in deliberately teasing a neighbouring Labrador by sitting ever so slightly out of his reach upon the roof of his dog box whilst slowly performing his ablutions - driving the dog delirious with rage and laughing behind his whiskers when the dog receives a resounding telling off for disturbing the peace by his owner!